I admit it. I have become a news media congress junkie.
There are two major international associations for representing the interests of news media publishers globally: INMA (International News Media Association) held its annual Global News Media Congress in New York last month and last week WAN-IFRA (World Association of Newspapers) had its own event in Glasgow.
A great deal of the new thinking revolved around defending the core business of news media – journalism – and the pursuit of the facts that democracy depends upon in order to survive and thrive.
A key focus of the WAN-IFRA Congress was freedom of the press, which is under pressure in many parts of the world, including as it turns out, Australia. WAN-IFRA has been steadily gathering empirical evidence, to be released in July, that freedom of the press is a key ingredient in economic, political and social stability.
The recent AFP raids on the ABC headquarters and the home of News Corp journalist Annika Smethurst remind us never to be complacent about freedom of the press, nor the crucial role journalists play in highlighting issues of great public importance, nor the courage of our news media publishers in publishing the stories that matter. Our publisher members in Australia stand by press freedom.
The point was made best at the WAN-IFNA Congress by UK Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt, who said: “Free media is not an optional extra, still less a ‘Western’ value: it forms one pillar of a thriving society, benefiting people in every corner of the world. If we want to embrace the opportunities of a free society, encourage the open exchange of ideas, pass informed judgement on our leaders and do it peacefully through the ballot box, then we must defend the institution which enables all of this.”
Publishers were also encouraged at both WAN-INFA and INMA congresses to invest in revenue diversification strategies while not deviating by a single degree from the core journalism that engages audiences.
News media are becoming more entrepreneurial, creating new reader revenue streams from various channels for their content, and by becoming data-obsessed and competent at dynamic and bundled pricing.
In the advertising business, they are either building or acquiring marketing services capabilities, evolving from media vendors to strategic marketing partners. This is certainly occurring in Australia.
A year ago, there was much handwringing about the apparent existential threat to news media represented by the digital platforms. It felt very much like publishers regarded it as a zero-sum game. But there is definitely a new mentality this year.
News media players from all over were actively engaged in the conversation about the evolving relationships between news media and the digital platforms. There seemed to be a general recognition that moaning about being a victim is the surest way to remain one.
The prevailing mood was one of promise that things can improve, either through the measured steps the platforms are taking towards respecting and sustaining journalism, or from the 80 or so inquiries that are going on around the world, many of them contemplating regulation.
Either way, the conversations were mature, informed and looked forward rather than back. Both congress events involved representation from Google and Facebook. Apple and Amazon are likely not far behind.
There is no doubt that the catalyst for this more constructive engagement with the challenges of the digital platforms has been the more positive, confident mood.
This confidence is driving innovation at the core of news media visions: journalism.
But it is also driving innovation and evolution around this core, creating new opportunities and unlocking potential.
We all have a role to play in writing the future of news media. What will yours be?
By Peter Miller, CEO, NewsMediaWorks